DRILL OR DROP?

Rathlin prepares for new East Yorkshire well site

Initial archaeological survey work at West Newton B.

Rathlin Energy is expected to begin work within weeks at its new oil and gas exploration site in East Yorkshire.

Two-and-a-half years after being granted planning permission, the company told local people it was now ready to start operations at West Newton-B.

Notes from the most recent meeting of the site’s community liaison committee referred to work planned for the first half of 2018, as well as temporary road closures and approximate lorry movements.

The meeting, which took place in December 2017, heard that a hiatus in developing the site had been “due, in part, to uncertainty in the current oil and gas markets”.

But according to the notes, Rathlin’s chairman, David Montagu-Smith, said “the company was now ready to start work”.

Plans for the West Newton-B site were approved unanimously by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s planning committee on 4 June 2015.

Rathlin has five years from that date to drill and test up to two exploration wells at the site at Crook Lane, West Newton. The company plans to target Permian age carbonates, which it said, may hold a combination of oil and gas. The development, once started, must be completed within two years. DrillOrDrop report

Rathlin Energy would not confirm whether it had given notice to East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) of its intention to start work. The council told DrillOrDrop that all pre-commencement conditions had been met or discharged but it had not received a notification from Rathlin about the start of work.

West Newton B site location and access road (both marked in red). Source: Rathlin Energy Non-technical summary submitted as part of the planning application

First operations

According to the meeting notes, at least four operations were due to be carried out between January and March 2018. These include: baseline air quality monitoring; drilling of water monitoring boreholes; an archaeology survey; and construction of an access road.

Air quality surveys will be carried out over three two-week periods, the notes said. The company said it planned to drill two water monitoring boreholes on the site to a depth of 60-70m.

The access road and archaeological survey could be carried out at the same time, Rathlin told the liaison committee. But site construction work must wait until the survey had been completed.

Archaeological survey

According to the meeting notes, the archaeological survey is expected to include stripping the top soil from the site, and mapping and recording any finds.

The minutes of a committee meeting in June 2016 confirmed that an initial survey had found Roman pottery and possible cremation remains.

Humberside Archaeology Partnership said the site was part of a landscape settled by early man up to 10,000 years ago. It expected the development would turn up archaeological finds from prehistoric and Romano-British periods.

Access road

The planning application indicated that the access road was 1.5km long.

Rathlin told the December meeting that construction of the road was expected to take about six weeks and be completed in March 2018.

The work would involve approximately 730 lorry movements (365 in to the site and 365 out), at an average of 36 per day (18 in and 18 out). The peak, on one day, was estimated at 64 (32 in and 32 out).

Site construction

The notes said site construction would begin at the end of the first quarter of the year (March) and would also take about six weeks. It would involve 710 lorry movements (355 in to the site and 355 out). This was expected to average 22 a day (11 in and 11 out).

Drilling

Rathlin told the meeting it planned to drill the conductor pipe – the structural foundation for a borehole – and the main borehole during April-June 2018.

The conductor pipe was expected to take about two weeks. Planning conditions limit the time on site of the main drilling rig to two periods of 10 weeks each, one for each well.

Road closures

Rathlin also told the meeting it had applied for temporary road closures around the site for a period of 18 months. The notes said:

“It is likely that this will only be put in place during the operations – air and water monitoring, access road and wellsite building, drilling and testing (up to nine months in total).”

The notes said the application, from 1 January 2018, had been submitted but not determined. The closures would add about a minute and a half to local journeys. Access for residents and emergency services would remain in place.

Rathlin would not give DrillOrDrop details of which roads would be closed. But notes from the previous meeting said access to the site would be from Crook Lane and Pasture Lane. East Riding of Yorkshire Council said: “No orders had been processed for road closures.”

Rathlin’s other East Yorkshire operations

The West Newton B site will be the second currently operated in East Yorkshire by Rathlin Energy.

The older site, known as West Newton A, off Fosham Road, is suspended. The most recent work carried out there was well testing in 2014.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council granted planning permission in November 2015 for a second well at West Newton A. Like West Newton B, a condition of the permission is that there is no hydraulic fracturing at the site. The permission runs until December 2018.

A third site, at Crawberry Hill, near Beverley, has been returned to agricultural land and is now under a five-year aftercare programme, Rathlin said.